Monday, September 19, 2011

Early Abstract Art

Roberta Smith implores people to save The American Folk Art Museum's 10 year old building on West 52nd Street in Manhattan.  The Museum houses an impressive historical collection of quilts, along with four to five thousand works by 20th century outsider artist Henry Darger

On the quilt exhibition, Ms. Smith observes,
They effortlessly combine personal and national histories with an exceptional kind of down-home formalism, all the while using available, often humble, fabrics. Like painted furniture and ceramics — only more so — they encourage a free-range pictorial expression outside of painting’s traditional boundaries. Like Navajo blankets, many can be counted among the earliest abstract art in post-conquest North America.
Courtesy of the American Folk Art Museum
Artist, Rebecca Fisher Stolzfus, 1903
Wool with rayon binding (added later)

We don't often think about a bunch of 19th century housewives, or Native Americans, American slaves or unassuming Amish as predominant 19th century abstractionists, or, as the New York Times writer notes, regarding Rebecca Fisher Stoltzfus' 1903 Diamond in the Square, "precursors of Minimalism's rigor and scale ... worthy in its boldness of the young Frank Stella .. a marvel to dissect and reassemble with the eye."
Could this, too, be part of the reason the museum is scheduled for closure? 

1 comment:

  1. I agree about the connection between 19th C AAm quilt traditions and color field abstraction. Some feminist theorists made this link and I always included it my teaching art history. However, I think the museum has, like many other cultural and socially progressive programs throughout the country, lost funders who lost their money in the big stock market/US bailout swindle of 2008. My solution to the current government/job/fiscal crisis is to re-fund the NEA and build a government funded arts infrastructure. It's not just about my profession, but bringing jobs to arts area will have positive effects throughout society by engaging in what inspires people rather than focusing on "business interests."